67-year old Stacey runs and cycles 67km for Mandela Day to raise funds for TB
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
Of all the things known about the most celebrated world leader of the twentieth century, very few people know that the late Nelson Mandela was a TB survivor. Madiba was cured of the disease in 1988 and famously told the 2004 International Aids Conference in Bangkok, Thailand that the battle against AIDS cannot be won unless the fight against tuberculosis was intensified. Neal Stacey is doing exactly that.
"Never ever did the thought cross my mind that one day I'll be running and cycling for TB," he tells #TheTopRunner. For 67 consecutive days, the 67 year old will run and cycle 6,7km in honour of his hero and in order to raise funds for TB. You see Neal is also a TB survivor who promised himself that he would become an advocate for this disease in order to highlight the plight of its sufferers.
"Between 1989-1990 I became ill and just didn't recover. I visited GP's with regular monotony. Surgeries became my second home. I experienced unexplained symptoms. My immune system was down and I developed a cough that did not improve. An increase of mucus, respiratory tract infections, weight loss, night sweats and a general feeling of tiredness and weakness were my constant companions," he reveals.
But doctors couldn't get to the bottom of the problem. Stacey was initially misdiagnosed with everything from allergies to asthma and meningitis to man-flu. As a an affluent white man living in Apartheid South Africa, Neal didn't fit the TB stereotype of a poor, black HIV positive person. So it wasn't until August 1990 that he was eventually diagnosed. But the journey in out of hospital and meeting fellow TB patients awakened him to the difficulties of those battling the disease while fighting poverty at the same time. Three decades later Neal decided to do something about it.
"I realize just how fortunate and privileged I was," he declares. And after reflecting upon his good fortune, Stacey made a commitment to himself in 2014 to share his blessings with others. "It all began when after an Achilles operation. I expressed my desire to take part in running/cycling races in other provinces of South Africa. I saw so much media on AIDS awareness but never on the plight of TB sufferers. I decided that I was going to raise awareness about TB," says the man who lives by the mantra 'it's about the cause - never the applause'.
On that day, the 2feet4tb initiative was born. In the seven years between 2017 and 2024, Stacey will participate in running and cycling races to raise both awareness and funds. He has completed 26 marathons and 13 Cape Cycle Tours so far and on this Mandela Day weekend he completed what he calls the Madiba Challenge; he ran and cycled 67km on Saturday and Sunday in celebration of his icon.
"We can all learn so many lessons from a man who I admire and have and will always have the utmost respect for. He selflessly embraced a struggle with little hope of reward. He was driven by conscience, dedication and commitment to his cause," he says of the inspirational Tata. The 67 consecutive days of running and cycling 6,7km will come to an end on Stacey's 68th birthday on the 11th of September. Go to https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/2feet4tb to support Neal's initiative.